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The Secret Life of Gerald: The New Zealand MP who spent his life building a vast fictional world | New Zealand

G.erald O’Brien lived a very public life. new zealand An MP, an anti-war activist, and chairman of the Council for World Peace, even those closest to him criticized his secret, all-consuming, lifelong art project that produced a vast and complex fictional world. I did not know.

Hidden in the basement of the late politician was the handwritten imagination obsessively crafted by O’Brien from his infancy through his years in Congress and years afterward.

After O’Brien died in 2017, his complex work was kept from the world, including his wife of 60 years, Fausta, until his family began cleaning up his Wellington home.

“The whole thing was a mystery and no one knew anything about it,” his nephew Lucien Rizzos told The Guardian. is a bit incomprehensible.”

Among the disorganized drawers and boxes in O’Brien’s basement, Rizzos unearthed clippings of more than 700 characters.

4 highly detailed painted cutout figures
Part of the cast of characters living in the world of Gerald O’Brien.

Each was given a name or title. Some had real-world influences, such as Charles III of Escotia and Fidel His Bistro. Others were more original, such as HRH Prince Jupiter Squashyspeck and his Katesmart Bigglesbum. As O’Brien got older, his projects progressed as well, and although his style remained artistically consistent, his presentation became more sophisticated and his narratives more elaborate.

“The continuation of the epic illustration extends into his adulthood,” says Rizzos.

5 clippings drawn like a child
Young O’Brien’s work.

O’Brien also created maps for fictional countries such as Escotia, Andamir, and Gaston. A large number of handwritten newspapers reporting events, including communiqués on combat, politics, and the monarchy. A history book chronicling major events, and lists of military personnel and administrative leaders revised as the nation’s “wars” and “elections” evolve.

“He said nothing”

O’Brien was born in Wellington in 1924 and grew up in a war-torn world. Unsurprisingly, his imaginary world was heavily focused on battles and armies, but he later became an avid pacifist and vocal critic of the Vietnam War. He played many roles in his long life. He was an Air Force radar operator, businessman, city councilor, politician, and eventually chairman of the World Peace Council.

A group of islands drawn as a map
A map of fictional islands.

He was a man of many interests and talents, and was obsessed with politics from an early age, says Rizzos. He joined the Labor Party in his early twenties and was elected to Parliament as Member of Parliament for Wellington’s Island Bay voters in 1969, a position he held until 1978.

Rizzos spent much time with O’Brien in his later years, discussing his life and the decisions that led to his political career. character, Gerardi Rebels of the Hills (a sort of cowboy Robin Hood). ”.

Later, when Rizos sifted through secret clipping dolls, they came across an eerily similar resemblance to their uncle named Anthony Gerardi Reverie.

JG O'Brien MP plaque
One of the many artifacts of his own life that O’Brien has collected.

“I talked to him for a year… about all sorts of things, but [the imaginary world] I had no idea and it pissed me off that I didn’t know,” he says. “He didn’t say, ‘You’ll find this,’ because he knew he was dying.”

“A very human project”

O’Brien and Fausta suffered a severe stroke after her husband’s death and are now in full-time care. For Rizos, they were like parents. O’Brien was a “giant and highly cultured man” and was responsible for introducing Rizzos to music, art and books. Rizzos, who retired last year as a violinist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra after 46 years, is also a documentary photographer. So when he came across a large amount of documents, paintings and booklets in O’Brien’s house, he felt compelled to preserve them.

Once the country went into lockdown, he began the arduous task of scanning every piece of paper he could find. Two and a half years later, he said, “all”.

This catalog consists of three parts: O’Brien’s imaginary world, his political life, including details of the political scandals that rocked his career, and, finally, his more general public life, including letters, business cards, and photographs. Divided into categories.First time in his October at Victoria University of Wellington Adam Art Gallery.

A large bookshelf full of books in Gerald O'Brien's house.
An image of the bookshelves in Gerald O’Brien’s home, taken after his death, and forming part of an exhibition created by his nephew, Lucien Rizzos. Photo: Lucien Rizos/Courtesy

“I think it’s a very human project,” Rizzos says of his uncle’s collection. “This is human nature and all its flaws.”

Rizos is reluctant to theorize why O’Brien created the fictional hidden world, but believes he was vague about how it would remain hidden after his death. Knowing that he was sick and dying, O’Brien asked Rizos to buy him a shredder machine “to get rid of everything he didn’t want anyone to read.” If he had wanted it, he would have asked for it.

The catalog can be seen as both a continuation of O’Brien’s unfulfilled dream of writing an autobiography and a preservation of an interesting slice of New Zealand history, Rizzos says.

But in the end, it’s the lonely loving work of a grieving nephew. “I would return to the house again and again, reviving the memories of being empty for two years.

“But without the treasure he left me, I would have never understood who he was. It feels like a message from the grave.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/24/secret-life-of-gerald-the-new-zealand-mp-who-spent-a-lifetime-crafting-a-vast-imaginary-world The Secret Life of Gerald: The New Zealand MP who spent his life building a vast fictional world | New Zealand

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